With No Final Say, Trump Wants To Change Who Counts For Dividing Up Congress’ Seats
President Trump is signing a memorandum Tuesday that calls for an unprecedented change to the constitutionally mandated count of every person living in the country — the exclusion of unauthorized immigrants from the numbers used to divide up seats in Congress among the states.
The White House has not provided any additional details and has not yet released the text of the memorandum, but in a written statement, a White House official who spoke on background said the “action will clarify that illegal aliens are not to be included for the purpose of apportionment of Representatives following the 2020 Census.”
But the move by the president, who does not have final authority over the census, is more likely to spur legal challenges and political spectacle in the last months before this year’s presidential election than a transformation of the once-a-decade head count.
Since the first U.S. census in 1790, both U.S. citizens and noncitizens — regardless of immigration status — have been included in the country’s official population counts.
The fifth sentence of the Constitution specifies that “persons” residing in the states should be counted every 10 years to determine each state’s share of seats in the House of Representatives. The 14th Amendment goes further to require the counting of the “whole number of persons in each state.”
It is Congress — not the president — that Article 1, Section 2 of the country’s founding document empowers to carry out the “actual enumeration” of the country’s population in “such manner as they shall by law direct.”
In Title 2 of the U.S. Code, Congress detailed its instructions for the president to report to lawmakers the tally of the “whole number of persons” living in each state for the reapportionment of House seats. In Title 13, Congress established additional key dates for the “tabulation of total population.”
The state of Alabama, however, is arguing in an ongoing federal lawsuit that the framers of the Constitution did not intend for the term “persons” to include immigrants living in the country without authorization. Alabama says it’s trying to avoid losing a seat in Congress after the 2020 census by seeking to leave out unauthorized immigrants from the results of the national count that are used to reapportion the U.S. House.
Trump’s announcement, first signaled in a Politico newsletter last week, comes just over a year after the administration backed down in its failed attempt to add the now-blocked citizenship question to the 2020 census.
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Read the Trump memo here: https://nnirr.org/downloads/july-21-2020-memorandum-on-excluding-illegal.pdf